itu_telecom_world_2006.jpgThis week's prize for least original headline goes to Digitimes for “Large China presence at ITU Telecom World 2006.”

That's hardly surprising as this year's Telecom World appears to
have been tailor-made to showcase China's technology industry. This is
the 10th time that the ITU has held the triennial Telecom World but the
first time it has been held outside Geneva, where the ITU is based.

The Chinese government lobbied hard to get the change of venue in
return for its enthusiastic support which it has duly delivered.

China's top six carriers are there plus rising local stars in the
hardware business such as ZTE, Huawei Technologies and Datang Telecom.
Add in representatives from HK, Macau and Taiwan, and you have more
than 200 Greater Chinese companies, the largest number in the history
of the show

Although consolidation has taken its toll, there are also familiar
names from the western telecoms industry, such as Nokia and Motorola,
who are desperate to tap into the growth potential of China's
telecommunications market, particularly as it is about to start issuing
3G operating licenses after three years of delay — see this story.

But they now face tough competition from their low-cost Chinese
competitors not just in China but also in many emerging markets where
carriers balk at paying “western” prices for telecoms hardware.

It might seem strange that the telecom industry's jamboree has
forsaken its traditional home in cozy Switzerland to move to Hong Kong.
But China is one of the few growth cards that the telecoms industry has
left to play — and China wants the rest of the world to know it.

The new location speaks volumes for just how the industry has changed in recent years.

The atmosphere at the last Telecom World, held in Geneva in 2003 was
decidedly grim. Today, the outlook is somewhat brighter and the stands
bigger, although with 750 exhibitors, the number of exhibitors is
slightly down on the number at the 2003 event, due to industry

When EngagingChina last visited Telecom World, back
in 1999, the mood was very different. The size of the equipment
vendors' stands was matched only by the size of their egos and western
carriers were falling over themselves to spend money on new
infrastructure in a bid to head off the challenge supposedly posed by
the new generation of brash young alternative carriers.

But then came the dotcom collapse, the WorldCom scandal and the
investor backlash against carriers for spending huge sums on 3G
licences and “next generation” networks — neither of which have lived
up to their revenue-generating potential.

The industry is still nursing a hangover from these past excesses.
No-one knows that better than suppliers to Europe's telecoms market,
which is expected to grow just 2.1 percent this year– less than
predicted GDP growth for the region.

Its not much fun working in an industry that it growing less that
the overall economy, so its understandable that the western equipment
industry should made the trek out to HK, not just to find new business
but also to rediscover some of the buzz and exuberance of the Telecom
Worlds of yesteryear. But once the lights have dimmed, it will be be
interesting to see just how many of those expressions of interest made
at the show translate into firm orders.

For more on Telecom World, Red Herring has a story here.

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